Suburban Trenches

At about midnight I notice the ice cold milk carton was put into the refrigerator empty once again. As I reluctantly grab my raincoat and my comfy scarf I peek my head out the front door to survey to what I am about to endure. I run like a bandit out of the old west to my car and scurry over to the store. As I pull into the parking lot I can feel the war is on, as I put on my war paint I take a breath and get out, entering the war zone. In the darkness of the night I slip, cat like, through the dark sea of asphalt. I see others who are like me, but are they friend or foe? I decide I do not want to know and I keep my head low, not to invite any unwanted contact. In the store the lights are dim, flickering with yellow flashes. As I pass others in the store I see their stabbing stare, I am walking a fine line and I must remain silent. I can see daggers hiding in belts and muskets peeking out from under raincoats. We are all enemies. We are no longer one.

I suddenly hear loud voices and signs of comminatory which is unnerving. It has become us against them. As I swing my body around the isle I move the boxed cereals to the side so I can see them. There are about six of them. They are laughing and joking around, their boastfulness clearly displays that they are the alpha here. I then remember, milk. I need to just get the milk. Too afraid to cross into their territory I decide I need to make a run for it. I need to pass the frozen foods section to reach the dairy. I count to three and take off running, but they see me. I make a nose dive towards the milk, just in time, as they hurl bullets in my direction, which pierce the orange juice; the floor has become a sea of orange. No one seems to notice as I hold my milk, captive against my chest, feeling accomplished. The enemy has left. I calmly wipe the war paint off my face and make it to the checkout stand. I take a deep breath as I swim through the asphalt ocean once more as I make my way to the car. On the way home I think about what world has come to. To feel like we are at war with one another. We have become afraid, even in our familiar suburbs; we no longer say hello or help our fellow human. It has become an unspoken war zone; we are constantly in the trenches, fearful to become too involved in one another’s lives. If we try to better ourselves and be more humane, we are looked down upon with great suspicion as being an enemy. I want the war to stop, I want to be able to wave my white flag and crawl out; out of these suburban trenches.

Eliina Belenkiy 2009


Last Message

I look at my mother lying in her hospital bed, where she has been for so many months, with sorrow and I say to her, “Okay, it is recording now; I will be back in a few minutes.” She nods her head as she looks at me with a glazed over expression of grief, biting her lip, holding back tears. As I walk around the bed to give her a kiss on her soft cheek she whispers, “Thank you,” into my ear. Her eyes are locked on me until I leave the room; she then turns her gaze into the camera lens, takes a breath and begins…
It was over a year ago when my mother was recording her last living message to me and I realized that by the time I would see the video she was making that she would be gone and I would be walking out of the hospital alone. My mother passed away when I was only 21 and I realize now what an amazing connection we had in life and especially through the process of her dying. She gave me life and was there for my birth and I was there for her, holding her hand through her death. To have such a connection with another being, one of complete honesty, openness and trust is an incredible experience. We needed to become vulnerable to one another because that rawness was all that was left in her final days. Letting go of my mother is one of the most difficult, yet important things I have done in my life so far, I needed to be completely selfless and to give and love another unconditionally. Even though this experience was excruciatingly painful I would never want to trade the time the two of us spent together for anything in the world.
As I take some deep breaths and decide it is time to go back upstairs. I can’t believe all of the things she is going to be missing: college graduation, my wedding, my children, my life. As I pass people in the halls I think to myself how sick I am of all their fake smiles and automatic, “How are you’s.” My mother is dying, and I feel in order to keep some normalcy I reply with a forced smile and say, “Fine, thank you.” I feel my bones trembling in my body as I approach the closed door of room 4210. I take a deep breath and then enter.

My mom looks at me and says with relief in her voice and a heavy sigh, “Perfect timing,” she just finished recording my message. I ask if she is okay, she seems so emotionally drained and I feel a stabbing pain of guilt in my heart for asking her to make this video for me, for us. With the camera still running I purposely walk over to her and give her sweet kisses on her cheek, savoring the texture and warmth of her skin on my lips which will soon only be a memory. I then give her butterfly kisses, which she used to give me when I was a baby, the only difference was this time she did not have the strength and her eye lashes barely brush against my cheek. I then walk over to the camera and my eyes refocus from her to the view finder and almost as if comic relief knows it is time to appear I blurt out, no pun intended, “Say bye-bye.” My Mother has a look of utter shock on her face as she barely musters it out before she and I break into hysterical laughter and I turn the camera off. 

This was published in 2012. The book can be purchased here.